One year ago, we went on our honeymoon. A queer-friendly destination was high on our priority list. We started off in NYC and flew from there to the island of St. Martin (stay tuned for Honeymoon Part 2)… and did we ever have a blast! It was the perfect combo of sweet city heat and sight seeing, paired with relaxed island vibes and natural beauty.
I’m going to list everything as an imperative, but consider it as more of a suggestion. If you have half as much fun as we did, you’ll love New York, too. And yes, in a gay way. Air kisses.
Alison and Allia
Get a great hotel and then spend as little time in it as possible. We stayed at the Wyndham Garden, centrally located in the heart of Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The rooms were small, but very clean and quiet. We were right in the middle of things and the staff was just too sweet to describe.
Hit the streets on foot and fall in love with the strange and wonderful things you find as you take it all in.
Diverge from the beaten path and ignore people when they say it’s too far to walk. We tried to avoid taking transit. You miss so much of the city when you head underground. Unless you have a clock to punch, put on those walking shoes (plus, then you feel no guilt whatsoever about enjoying all the local treats you can stomach!)
Take recommendations. Our friend told us to check out Co. and we were not disappointed. We found awesome local brew and some of the yummiest food of our entire trip. The marinated warm olives had us making nom-nom food noises.
Laugh. We were tuned-in to the humour of the city and the days were made lighter by all of those laugh out loud moments. Gotta love a meatball-specialty shop that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Eat as many treats and local delicacies as you can find!
Go to at least one fancy place. We went to the Standard Hotel where beverages were $20 US each. Gimlet, anyone? Moscow Mule? Go somewhere where you’ll feel like you’ve pulled the wool over someone’s eyes just by being allowed in. I was definitely under dressed, and felt a bit like a the Anne Hathaway who arrives amidst the fashionistas on day one in The Devil Wears Prada, but got away with an ‘I don’t even give a care’ rock star incognito look.
The Standard felt like the set of a James Bond film, from the stealthy elevator ride up a bazillion stories, to the gilded interior, and the staff are off-duty glamazon models in tiny little whisper-of-nothing dresses; they don’t seat you at tables, they catwalk you there. And the male staff are dressed like the bellhops in the Grand Budapest Hotel. Check out the very racy bathrooms with floor to ceiling windows (in the stalls) and the breath-taking views of the city.
See live music. We went, on the recommendation of a friend. (Thanks, Annie!) to see the performance art piece, Sleep No More, at the McKittrick Hotel; the evening started and ended with cabaret-style live acts and this bombshell songstress who later morphed into a rockabilly crooner. Hello, Jessica Rabbit. http://www.sleepnomore.com/#share
Go see Sleep No More. It bears repeating. Trust me. Just do it. It’s creepy, intriguing, intimate and an immersive experience. You start by putting on a mask, then the fun begins as you’re ushered into a maze of performance and choose your own adventure style artscape. Very voyeuristic, sometimes sexy, sometimes deeply uncomfortable. I got licked… and I kinda liked it.
Be ready to appreciate the surprises, small and large. We arrived home to our room to find a card signed by the hotel staff and some treats; when they realized it was our honeymoon, they wanted us to feel the love.
Don’t sleep all day. We went to the Chelsea Market almost daily to try different foods and to wander. We ate at Giovanni Rana and were seriously spoiled by the staff. On that particular day it seemed that everyone wanted to give us free stuff. We graciously accepted. Chelsea Market website: http://chelseamarket.com/
Drink Champagne. Cheers often.
Don’t get too caught up with a plan. be open to seeing where the day takes you. Follow your whims and enjoy the ‘not knowing’ where you might wind up next.
Take photos to remember the experience, but don’t spend all your time behind a camera lens. Also, pack clothes that will make you feel amazing – in physically and mentally. Comfort is key, but so is feeling great once you get out there. It’s my firm belief that your cute clothes (like fine china) should not be ‘saved’ for later.
Put yourself in the scene. Stop and ponder. Do what the locals do, but don’t be afraid to be silly. Allia needed a break, and just happened to look adorable sitting there. We took this photo on the Highline (one of our favourite places). There is so much to see and do and the concept of the Highline itself, of reclaiming urban space, is awesome. Check out the website: http://www.thehighline.org/
Get a map and pick a direction. See what happens on the way.
We found a soap and beauty product shop that gave us free treatments and hand massages just for stopping in. Say yes to those fun indulgences and don’t be afraid to leave when you’re ready to move on.
Visit an art gallery or museum. The New School had an exhibit that was free to the public: a politically charged collection that commented on history and current events, while examining censorship.
Take a break if your feet are sore or someone gets hangry. (not naming names, here).
Have a cocktail. Try something new. Muddled blackberry somethin’ somethin’. Enjoy happy hour.
Meet up with friends who are in town! We went to a Dessert Club, Chika Licious, where we had several courses of dessert paired with wines. We were met by old friends from New York, and a Toronto ex-pat.
Indulge. Coconut marshmallows. Lavender shortbreads. Chocolate ganache with hazelnut and sea salt.
Do something spontaneous. Just say, okay. Or in my case, say ‘stop the car!!’. We were driving around Alphabet City when I noticed a human sized bird’s nest in a tree, a whimsical tree fort, in the middle of a park. We made a pit stop, obviously.
Soak up some culture. We went to the famed Newyorican Poets Cafe for an open mic poetry slam. It was incredible. I am hard to impress when it comes to live performance, but I was mind-blown by the talent and energy we saw that night. This is a not-to-be-missed experience. http://www.nuyorican.org/
Eat pizza while you wait in line. Share some and swap stories with the people you just met.
Get into it. Really, you’re on vacation, so have a good time. Let go of your preconceptions and be in the moment. I didn’t know what to expect and the slam poets had such range that at times I was laughing til I got the hiccups, at others I sucked in my breath in shock, while some moments left my eyes brimming with tears.
Eat at a diner.
Take a selfie, and wear some punchy lipstick 😉
Rent a bike and ride around Central Park.
Eat at places that are suggested by friends, or sound intriguing. Bar Bacon sounded like it would be right up our alley… Beer and Bacon pairings!?! But the service sucked. Like REALLY sucked. Don’t get discouraged. It can still be fun, even if you hit a bit of a snag, or a diva server.
Try, try again. Not on our recommended list, we ended up walking by this Mexican place with a great crowd and followed our bomb of a bacon tasting appetizer experience with a truly memorable Mexican main course at El Centro (http://www.elcentro-nyc.com/). We loved it. The food was plentiful, the vibe was fun and we spotted an Orange Is The New Black cast member just a few tables away.
Go to the places everyone raves about. We went to Amy’s Bread because my brother said it was delish. We had olive oil ice cream, dark chocolate gelato and a slice of olive oil cake with lemon. Please … do this if you have the chance! And chat with the wonderfully friendly staff.
Make friends with a local. Turn an ‘uh-oh’ moment into a good one when Allia’s backpack strap broke and we were forced to track down a leather repair shop. We ended up meeting this new friend.
What a charmer.
Don’t let minor set-backs ruin your day. Retrospectively, this little detour wasn’t a big deal. See, Allia, I can admit it.
Do the big touristy things. Voila, Brooklyn Bridge. But maybe, pick an overcast day to walk the sucker.
Share meals. If you want to eat often, avoid feeling stuffed, and to try lots of different places – eat your way around the city and share, share, share. Splitting meals, like the one we enjoyed at Bevacco (http://bevacco.com/), was a great way to keep up our energy and let us sample the variety on offer in one of the foodiest cities in the world. We loved the decor of Bevacco and their Italian fare was pretty scrumptious.
Get one really special thing that you wouldn’t normally indulge in. This is the one that got away. This Vince Camuto statement piece has been on my mind ever since I restrained myself and didn’t buy it. Get yourself a souvenir that you’ll really love – each time you see it you’ll remember where you first met.
Enjoy a home cooked meal. Friends invited us out to Jersey for the evening. We were spoiled with Oysters Rockafeller and a spread of mouth-watering food, then we played after-dinner games and caught up with old friends.
Find a hole in the wall. We went to Cubby- Hole – a little dive bar in the LGBTQ scene. It was pretty memorable in a campy way.
Do something that is personal. For me, as a grad of the Sexual Diversity Studies program at U of Toronto, seeing the Stonewall Inn was a must on my NYC list. This is where it all started. The people who fought for our rights back in 1969 are the reason we can even be on this honeymoon. Thank you.
Get emotional. I did. Whatever your heart’s issue is, when you get there you’ll feel it. We spent our last night in New York watching drag queens and appreciating our history.
We did love New York. The city was the perfect start to a two part honeymoon. Stay tuned for the next leg of our journey – shifting to island time on beautiful St. Martin.